The Toledo Blade on Saturday represented that Ohio could see as $4 billion in additional funding under President Obama’s jobs bill.  This afternoon, the President visits a school in Columbus to highlight how his plan will create jobs by putting construction people back to work renovating America’s schools to be the best in the world.

According to the Blade, the President’s American Jobs Act would mean for Ohio:

  • Ohio would be expected to get nearly $1.1 billion to prevent the layoffs of teachers and even to hire more and to local governments to help them keep firefighters and police on the job, which is estimated to save 14,200.
  • Nearly $1.1 billion of which could be Ohio’s to support an estimated 13,700 local jobs for highway, transit, rail, and aviation infrastructure improvements.
  • $985.5 million in Ohio for the renovation of schools to support some 12,800 jobs.
  • $696.2 million to help local communities rehabilitate vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses across the nation in hopes of supporting local construction jobs.
  • Ohio could be in line for $148.3 million to upgrade the facilities and equipment at community colleges.

In other words, for Ohio, what the American Jobs Act would do would be to take away some of the pain to economy caused by the Governor’s ironically names “Jobs” Budget.  Here was Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols reaction to the news of the President’s visit:

“Hopefully we’ll hear more when he’s in Columbus on Tuesday,’’ Mr. Nichols said. “If he’s got time on Tuesday, we can also arrange a meeting with the state budget office to show him how we closed an $8 billion shortfall while also cutting taxes. Given the $1.3 trillion federal deficit, it might generate some useful ideas.”

I’m sure the President will point out that it’s pretty darn easy to “balance” your budget when a State abdicates it’s role to use its broader tax base to support local government functions, leaving it to the local government and federal government to fund things like the police department in the Village of Mt. Sterling.

Kasich, at least on the tax cut side of the bill, was a little more gracious in singling his lukewarm support for parts of the bill, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Kasich said yesterday he liked the idea [of extending the payroll tax deductions that are set to expire] and urged Republicans in Congress to take “a very good look at the president’s agenda.”

“At this time, it’d be easy to just make some statement and kind of walk away and kind of blast the president; it’s just not my mood now,” said Kasich, who will not attend Obama’s speech today because he is in New York.

Of course, Kasich is still hell-bent on putting Ohio on the path of repealing the State’s income taxes (which accounts for well over 40% of the State’s revenues).  And, of course, Kasich would never admit it publicly, but he’ll gladly take the stimulus money in the President’s plan, too.  Kasich wants to talk about how he “balanced” the budget while cutting taxes as if he’s some kind of budgetary fiscal wizard.  But it’s pretty easy when you shift the burden of the costs of governing onto the local and federal governments.

Which is why it’s not surprising that Kasich is already talking about breaking with tradition of a biennial budget and is openly talking about passing a “mid-biennial review” budget.  Kasich wants to have the General Assembly pass a broad income tax cut that will make the Republicans more popular before the November 2012 elections.  Kasich’s hope is that the pain of the budget cuts in 2011 will be forgotten by then, while the broad-based tax cuts will be fresh in voters’ minds.  Also, Kasich has a number of privatization schemes he’s talked about implementing, including the Ohio Lottery, Turnpike, and the Bureau of Workers Compensation.

Senate President Tom Niehaus sounded downright giddy about the prospect (not.)

Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, recently joked that he “breaks out in hives” when he hears talk of another budget next year.

“Nothing surprises me,” he said. “You never know what he’s going to propose, but, hey, we wanted change. It’s exciting and fun to be part of it.”

The problem for  Kasich is that such a mid-biennium budget is not “must pass” legislation like the budget was this June (unless, of course, there’s a massive hole in Kasich’s budget by then.)  Also, if Issue 2 is defeated and defeated soundly, Kasich’s sway over the legislature will continue to weaken.  The reality is that Tom Niehaus, and especially Speaker Batchelder, are conservative leaders in their own right.  While they don’t mind being team players, it’s clear the legislature is starting to chafe at Kasich’s arrogance and treatment of them as nothing more than his rubber stamps.

Batchelder bit his tongue after the fact about his constitutional concerns with JobsOhio.  However, as it relates to the lottery privatization, he made it known during the budget debate that he had serious concerns about the legal issues it presents.  The privatization of the turnpike is grossly unpopular on a bipartisan basis, especially among the communities that will impact it (yet again, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell plays the role of the Kasich apologist and has endorsed a plan, even though Kasich admits that he won’t commit the funds generated by the scheme will be used soley for transportation projects in the affected region.)  In fact, most people have started to come to the conclusion that Kasich’s turnpike plan is totally unworkable in that Kasich cannot get the kind of price he wants while placating critics by having the State retain the level of control he has promised.  Also, spin as hard they want, the privatizations of the prisons was a bust as it failed to generate the savings promised (in fact, the State somehow saved MORE money by taking a privately-operated prison and turning it into a publicly-operated one.)

And that’s the Kasich way.  He’ll take federal money to ease the pain of his own budget, and then go on “Meet the Press” to brag about how he balanced his State’s budget while cutting taxes for the rich and how Obama should learn from him.  It’s entirely galling.

But there’s another reason Kasich is offering public support for parts of Obama’s American Jobs Act.  It has to do with why you’re seeing this ad on television right now:

Kasich’s poll numbers are abysmal.  He’s been told, repeatedly, by multiple Republican insiders that his brash style and, well, a-holeness is a real political liability.  Therefore, Kasich is trying to do his best to appear to be less partisan and ideological.  After seven months of smashmouth politics that has awaken the American labor movement in Ohio and generated significant broad support for it among the middle class in Ohio, Kasich is now trying to portray himself as “Kasich the Unifier.”  He’s trying to turn himself from the image of the guy who would just as soon run his political opponents with a bus than compromise to Johnny, the nice boy who drives your kids’ school bus every morning. 

I’ll have a post talking more about this ad later tonight, but there’s a reason Kasich is offering some support to Obama’s agenda because he knows it will make news as it is unexpected and will help him start to rehabilitate the image he’s already created.  It’s the only choice he has if he ever expects to get his disapproval rating below 50% again and if he’s to ever get his approval rating at or above 40%.

So in that regard, Obama’s American Jobs Act doesn’t just present Ohio with the opportunity to mitigate against the economic pain of Kasich’s budget, but it also helps Kasich mitigate the political pain he’s self-inflicted.

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